I turned 32 a few weeks ago. Thirty-two is not a milestone, and there’s no way I could “run my age” like I did two years ago, since I’m still fighting injury, but still, it was my birthday. I wanted to celebrate in my favorite way: hanging out in the mountains. We’d loaned our camping gear to some relatives, so camping was out, but we decided to drive up Poudre Canyon and go for a nice day hike. We have a book called The Best Front Range Hikes, so we consulted the Fort Collins section and chose Big South.
We left home a little later than we’d planned, as always tends to happen, and arrived at the trailhead around 9 a.m. The trailhead is farther up the canyon (48.7 miles, according to my book) than some more popular hikes, but as I told Jordan, it was my birthday and I wanted to see some quakie trees. The book claimed that the hike was within an hour of Fort Collins, but it was more like 90 minutes — not helped by road construction in the canyon. No matter, though — the skies were blue and storms weren’t in sight, so our later start didn’t matter.
The Big South trail is just before the Big South campground, which looks like a lovely place to camp, right by the river. The trailhead is on one side of a bridge, and the campground on the other, so when you see the bridge, you’ll know you’re there. We went to the campground first to use the restroom, then started our hike.
The trail is lovely; it goes along and above the Poudre River, which was flowing fast and full when we were there. Since it’s right beside the river, a wide variety of plants grow alongside the trail — shrubs and bushes, wildflowers, and wild raspberries, which made a tasty but not very filling snack.
Big South is a nice, easy hike, for the most part — gently rolling without any major climbs. Parts would be great for trail running, too, but some places were much too rocky, at least for a trail running novice like me, and would have to be hiked.
A number of backcountry campsites dotted the trail — I think we saw 10 — so if you’re a backpacker, this might make a fun trip — not too challenging, but with lovely river views.
We took our sweet time, enjoying the coolness of the woods, the roar of the river, and the beauty of the vegetation around us. Big South seemed like a place we would see lots of wildlife, but we saw only ground squirrels and birds. And butterflies, like this one who perched on my hand for a few minutes.
We hiked out for about 3.5 miles before turning around. My book said that the trail continues for 7 miles before dead-ending at a washout, but that the best views were in the first three miles, so we turned around and meandered back down, stopping for lunch beside the river. On the way down, we finally saw our first people of the day. We ended with seeing only four people, so the lack of a crowd was definitely a plus!
Big South made for a lovely little birthday hike. I don’t know that I necessarily agree that it’s one of the “Best Hikes of the Front Range,” but it was pretty, easy, and quiet, which all make it a winning hike. If you’re in Poudre Canyon and want to get away from the crowds at Greyrock and Hewlett Gulch, consider giving Big South a try!
If you were writing a “Best Hikes of Where You Live” book, what would you include?
Last week, I recapped all the Skirt Sports fun of Friday and Saturday of the ambassador retreat, but Sunday was, by far, my favorite day of the weekend. I mentioned once or twice on the blog that I was running the 13er, but since my training had been minimal, I’d decided to run it as a training run: nice and easy, soaking in the scenery and the camaraderie with my newfound buddies.
Early on, everything went according to plan. The race started at 6:30 (sounds early, but in June, I’ll take an early start any day), so I rolled out of bed at 5, ate a granola bar (one I’d never tried before, breaking the “nothing new on race day” rule because, training run), slathered on sunscreen, woke up Jordan, and drove the 20 minutes from our hotel to the start. Once there, I wandered around, chatted with some of the ambassadors I’d met earlier in the weekend, and of course, stood in the porta-john line.
Before long, I heard the “line up” announcement, so I filtered in somewhere in the mid-pack, trying to ensure that I’d treat this as a training run and not push, especially at the beginning. Soon, the gun went off, 125 watches beeped, and we started a long, easy downhill run. I kept my pace easy, but I realized that I’d taken this mid-pack thing too seriously and I couldn’t run comfortably, so I did a little bob-and-weave until the crowd thinned out and I settled in to my long-run pace — a little faster because of the downhill.
As I took in the beautiful scenery, I realized that I could see the lead bike, so I counted women in front of me. I was in sixth. I told myself to calm down. “This is not a race for you, self. You’re not in race shape. Start pushing it now, and you’ll die by the hill at mile 7.” Believe it or not, I actually listened to my own advice. I know. Maybe I’m learning something in my old age. So I kept cruising at a nice, easy pace, enjoying the view and the coolness of the morning, even taking a couple of pictures along the way.
On the first hill, a pretty small one (even for flatlander me), I passed one woman and told myself not to think about how I was now in fifth. I kept running and kept smiling, waving to the cyclists passing on the other side of the road and telling myself to take it easy. I stopped and filled my handheld at the last aid station before the infamous hill, and then I started up.
This hill is nicknamed “The Bad Relationship,” because it hurts, but you’ve “just gotta get over it.” It’s not very steep, but it’s long, and by the time you get to the steep part (the last quarter mile or so), your legs are getting pretty tired. Last year, I think I walked part of the hill, so my goal this year was to just keep running. “Eat that elephant,” I told myself. “One bite… er, step… at a time.” And so I did. Up, up, up, past the fourth-place woman, up.
Just after the crest of the hill, I also passed the third-place woman, but 0.1 miles later, I had to pull off and hit the porta-john. I reminded myself that it didn’t matter, because I’m not racing. A mile or so after the hill, the course heads into some trails at an open space for a few miles, and at the entrance to the park was an aid station manned by high schoolers. When I turned down their water (my handheld was still half full), one girl said, “Oh, please take some water!” Since I wasn’t racing, I said, “I didn’t know it meant that much to you!” and I turned around, jogged back, and chugged her water. The kids all cheered, and it made us all laugh. That moment was well worth the few seconds I lost off my final (non-racing, remember?) time.
At around mile 10, the race has a short out-and-back. I saw the lead bike and the lead woman coming back past me. I saw the second-place woman coming back past me. And then I reached the turnaround without seeing anyone else. Somehow, I’d gotten into third place! “Okay, self,” I thought. “You’ve got three miles left. You’re in third place. Let’s keep it that way.” I let myself pick it up, then, finding speed that I didn’t know my legs had after so many months of slow running. I cruised down the long, final downhill, watching the second-place woman and hoping I could catch her. I didn’t — she ended up finishing six seconds ahead of me — but I finished third, in 1:42:40. That’s more than ten minutes slower than my PR (from 2012, the last time I actually raced a half), but third place in a race in which I expected to be mid-pack was pretty darn exciting!
When I crossed the line, Skirt Sports founder (and my hero) Nicole Deboom greeted me with “Are you freakin’ kidding me?!” and a big hug — despite my sweaty grossness– and then Nicole and the top three finishers posed for a picture.
Here’s an example of why I admire Nicole so much: she greeted almost every single person who crossed the line in the same way, from the first three to the Running Start participants to the final finisher. Take a minute to scroll through the pictures from the race, and you’ll see Nicole hugging, high-fiving, and celebrating each person. I know I said this in my last post, but this is why I love Skirt Sports so much. Yeah, the clothes are amazing (and they have pockets!). But the community? That’s what makes this company amazing.
Anyway, back to me. #narcissism. After I finished, I drank some chocolate milk and got my award (a champagne flute, a Skirt visor, and a box of Love Grown Power O’s. Not sure which part of the prize I liked best). I’ll admit it, I kiiiinda want to pick a race and actually train for and race it. That podium is addicting.
J had to take off to be on time for a meeting in Breckenridge, but I stayed and cheered for the rest of the race, alternating standing at the finish line and chatting with my new friends. And dancing in the sprinklers.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’d never stayed until the very end of a race before. Now, I will whenever I can. Seeing those final finishers come in was inspiring. They put so much time and effort into their training and their race. They deserve to be cheered on just as loudly as the pointy-enders, and, as I learned from this article, that doesn’t always happen.
This race was a perfect wrap-up to a weekend of inspiration, camaraderie, empowerment, and celebration. I’m prouder than ever to represent this company, and I’m already excited for next year!
Have you run any races lately? Tell me about them!
Any recommendations for a goal race later this summer/fall? I’m thinking a half or 10k.
P.S. If you want in on the Skirt Sports love, use my 20% discount code: RRR20.
Last weekend was one of the best I’ve had in recent history. I’d been looking forward to the Skirt Sports ambassador retreat and 13er (13er, not half marathon, because “it’s not half of anything”) for weeks, even though I wasn’t sure if I could make it to all the events due to house-hunting. I made it, though, and I came away refreshed, inspired, and proud that I get to represent this incredible company.
Quick disclaimer before I get into my recap: As a Skirt Sports ambassador, I get some free and discounted product, but I’m not compensated for posting about them. I’m not one of those bloggers that have 85 ambassadorships and rep a ton of companies; I’m a Skirt ambassador because I love the product and I believe in this company and everything it stands for — namely, empowering women and embracing those of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. All opinions here are truly my own.
My weekend kicked off early. Jordan had a meeting in Loveland on Friday morning, so we went up Thursday afternoon to house hunt; we stayed with a friend in Fort Collins that night. Since Logan lives in Fort Collins and is my kind of crazy, she and I decided that a 4-a.m. wake-up call and a sunrise hike/run at Horsetooth Rock would be a great idea. We were correct.
Friday afternoon, we did some more (unsuccessful) house shopping, and then I headed up to Boulder and the new Skirt Sports store (on Pearl Street; if you’re ever in the area, hit it up!) for an ambassador cocktail reception. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous at first, as I’m a socially awkward penguin (as J says) and I didn’t really know anyone there — at least not in real life.
Of course, I had no reason to worry, because Skirt Sisters are as cool in person as online, and soon I was at ease. The tasty food (provided by Mad Greens and Kim and Jake’s Cakes) and beverages (provided by Ska Brewing and Bhakti Chai) also didn’t hurt.
After some time to shop, eat, and chat, Skirt Sports owner Nicole Deboom spoke. I first met Nicole (and fell in love with Skirt) before last year’s 13er; you can read about that here. The more I read Nicole’s articles, listen to her podcast, and spend time around her, the more I admire her. She is committed to inspiring and empowering women, and her passion shows through everything Skirt Sports does, from the #REALwomenmove campaign to using ordinary women as models to the Running Start nonprofit.
Nicole talked about finding your word: the one word that names your purpose and drives everything you do. Her word is “relationships.” I’m not sure yet what my word is, but I’ve been giving it a lot of thought since Friday night.
After Nicole spoke, we had a little fashion show to preview the new stuff for this fall and next spring. I can’t post pictures yet, but I can tell you there’s a lot of cool stuff coming up. I’d better start saving money now. The night wrapped up with cake, which is, of course, the best way to end an event.
Saturday morning, we met at Skirt Sports community outreach manager Noelle Wilson’s house in Lyons for breakfast (provided by sponsors Justin’s, Two Moms in the Raw, Bhakti Chai, and Noosa… yum) and a beautiful hike… complete with a few unplanned hill repeats when we couldn’t find the trailhead.
Also Amy’s picture.
After the hike, we split into two groups for breakout sessions. My group went with Nicole and brainstormed some outreach possibilities for the future. These women are super smart; they had some great ideas that I’m excited to see come to fruition!
After the breakouts, we came back together as a group, and Kate and Amy led a session on selfie-taking. Maybe now I can decent pictures while I run… but I probably won’t. Knowing how to do something and actually doing it aren’t always the same thing.
I had to leave before the wrap-up because we were doing more house-hunting, but the morning was absolutely wonderful. I’m so thankful that I had this opportunity to spend a weekend with such smart, strong, and wicked-cool women!
The weekend culminated in Sunday’s race, which will have its own post later this week. Stay tuned!
What’s the most inspiring, empowering, or exciting thing you’ve done lately?
A few weeks ago, a rep from the company SLS3 contacted me about reviewing their Dual Pocket Run Belt. I was skeptical at first, as I’ve tried several different run belts that have been terrible and I’m pretty attached to my Flipbelt, but I decided to give this one a try. After a couple of test runs, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.
Disclaimer: I was sent the SLS3 Run Belt for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my actual thoughts.
When I took the belt out of the package, my first thought was that it would bounce, as it looks similar to another belt (the brand of which shall not be named) I’d tried that bounced so much that I actually turned around, ran back home, and threw it in the yard. I’m not sure what the SLS3 folks did differently, but this belt didn’t budge. My iPhone lay smoothly inside the pocket and didn’t bother me at all.
The best thing about this belt is the pockets. They’re huge without being obnoxious. My iPhone 5 in its Otterbox fit easily in one pocket, and there was still room to spare, plus another whole pocket on the other side. Since I’m not training right now, even my “long runs” are pretty short, but I’ll appreciate all the space once I decide what I’m doing with my (running) life and start running long enough that I need to carry fuel.
The pockets are also water resistant, which I definitely appreciate. I’m a heavy sweater, so when I wear my Flipbelt or stick my phone in a pocket, I put it in a Ziplock first. And then it’s a pain to take it out if I want to pretend I’m a decent blogger and take a picture. The SLS3’s waterproofing eliminates the need for a baggie… and also my excuses for not taking pictures. Darn. The water resistance will also be appreciated when I get back to trail running this summer (because I WILL) and need to carry non-sweat-soaked TP.
I’ve always been on the fence about compression socks. I’ve read all about them, of course: they supposedly aid recovery and help runners stay stronger and faster for longer, but there’s not a ton of research out there, either for or against them (for a more detailed explanation, read this article from Competitor). Plus, those puppies are expensive, and I’m not exactly overwhelmed with earthly wealth, so I could never bring myself to drop $70 on a pair of socks that may or may not actually be beneficial. I have bought a couple of bargain-bin, off-brand pairs, but I could never tell a difference in my running or recovery… probably because they’re off-brand, bargain-bin socks.
That’s a long-winded way of getting to my point, which is this: A few weeks ago, a representative from Tiux, “a small startup with something to prove” (from their website) contacted me and offered to send me a pair of socks to try. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, and a few days later, a cute pair of pink-and-yellow socks arrived in my mailbox. I couldn’t wait to try them out!
Disclaimer: I was provided with these socks in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Over the past month, I’ve worn these socks several times, and I have to say, I’m impressed. I’ve worn them during runs and for post-run recovery, and I like them for both reasons. I was hoping they’d be miracle socks that would make my flatlander legs amazing at running hills. They’re not. Turns out, you actually have to run hills to be good at hills, not just wear socks. But my feet and calves ache less during and after runs when I wore these socks, and I love them for recovery. Since my drives to trailheads are 1.5+ hours, I could really tell a difference when I wore these socks on the drive home. I’m no scientist, but they must have helped the blood flow a bit better, because I didn’t feel as stiff and uncomfortable when I got home if I put these socks on post-run.
My only (minor) complaint about these socks is that they are a little too long for my legs — the tops come to the middle of my knee, which isn’t the most comfortable but is easily fixed by folding them down a little. My ankle and calf measurements had me between a medium and a small, and I ordered medium. I think if I’d gone down to a small, I wouldn’t have this issue, so keep that in mind when you order.
The best thing about Tiux socks is the price. They’re $35. That’s not a typo, and that’s not some special deal Tiux is running right now. That’s the everyday price. Unlike my bargain bin socks, though, these are a well-made, high-quality product. I’ve washed them several times, and nothing has changed (my bargain socks shrank after the first wash). They breathe and wick to keep your legs from getting hot and swampy, and the graduated compression is carefully engineered for optimal support and recovery.
Obviously, I’m a fan of these socks. They’re well worth the money… and the money is much more reasonable than other brands. If you’re looking for some quality compression socks that won’t break the bank, give these a try!
I’ve always thought that the half marathon was poorly named. I mean, I get that 13.1 is half of 26.2, but calling it a “half” seems to diminish the accomplishment of running 13.1 miles. And it is an accomplishment that should be celebrated.
The awesome ladies at Skirt Sports share my opinion, so they named their race a Thirteener, because “it’s not half of anything.” I kind of love that.
Know what else I love? Giving stuff away. (Okay, so this is my first blog giveaway, but I already know I’m going to love it. And so will you). Skirt Sports is giving one lucky reader an entry to the 13er (or the 10k or 5k), PLUS a $125 gift certificate!
The race is in Louisville, CO, on June 14, but if you’re not a Coloradoan, don’t despair: there’s also a virtual option, so you can join the Skirt Sports fun wherever you are!
Disclaimer: Skirt Sports also gave me a race entry and gift certificate. And look at the fun things I got!
I’ve never done this race before, but it looks like a ton of fun: a finisher skirt instead of a shirt, cake at the finish, and raffles! I’m excited to participate, and I hope some of my readers will, too!
Ready to enter? Click here to head to a Rafflecopter with several entry options! The giveaway is open until April 30 at 11:59 p.m.
When I trained for and ran my first six marathons, I exclusively used GU for fuel. It tasted fine and usually didn’t upset my stomach. Then, in the midst of training for marathon #7, my body decided it didn’t like GU any longer. Taking even half of one started making me nauseous and gaggy (that’s a word) — not how I wanted to feel in the middle of a training run or, especially, a race.
As the race approached, I went on a desperate quest to find new fuel. I tried Hammer, and Powerbar, and Clif chews, and several others, but nothing seemed to work. (Now I know that I was also dealing with IBS, which certainly didn’t help anything and ended up ruining my race anyway). Then one day, Jordan went to a running store and came home with little silver packets labelled “VFuel.” A love affair was born.
Disclaimer: VFuel isn’t sponsoring this post or compensating me in any way. I’m sure the company doesn’t even know I exist. I’m just thrilled to have finally found a gel that works for my freaky guts, and I wanted to spread the word.
Also, all the images in this post are borrowed from VFuel’s website.
VFuel is a Colorado company, started by ultra runners in Estes Park, so before I’d even tried the product, I liked that aspect, at least. Then I tried the gel and used it in my training, and now I’ve determined that it’s the best gel on the market, especially for those of us with sensitive stomachs. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve recently been diagnosed with IBS, and I’m learning about how different sugars affect my system. Fructose is hard for me to digest, and, as it turns out, is also hard for many people to digest, not just those with IBS –and especially while participating in endurance activities. The makers of VFuel know this, so they don’t use fructose in their gels, instead using dextrose and other easily-digestible ingredients.
Knowing that VFuel is easy on the GI system is a major selling point for me, but the taste of the gels is important, too: I don’t want to be gagging while trying to take in fuel. VFuel also delivers on the taste front. My favorite flavor is the Mountain Berry, but they’re all pretty tasty (except the Maple Bacon. Meat-flavor ranks pretty high on my list of things I don’t want on a run. But if that’s what you’re in to, go for it).
Though I’d never heard of VFuel until last summer, I was late to the party: several of my favorite athletes are featured on VFuel’s website. Folks like Sage Canaday, Timothy Olson, Reese Ruland, and other total badass ultrarunners are apparently VFuel users. Of course, that’s not why I use VFuel, but I’m going to pretend that it will make me wicked-fast and tough like those guys.
VFuel is, by far, the best gel I’ve tried, and the only one that doesn’t upset my stomach. I’ve used it on numerous runs this training cycle, and it’s never made me nauseous or worse. I highly recommend it, especially if you, too, have a sensitive stomach. Go check it out!
Everyone loves to talk about how running is a super-cheap sport for which you don’t need much equipment. That’s true, but like most hobbies, the more into it you get, the more things you find to spend money on. These are some of my favorite pieces of gear — both for necessities and not-so-necessaries.
Fact: I’m not a pro, or sponsored, or an anything ambassador. None of these companies gave me anything to write about them. These are just things I like that work well for me.
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Inspire
I started wearing these when they were the Inspire 5’s. Now they’re the 9’s, and I still love them. I overpronate, so I need some support but also like a light-ish shoe. These are my favorites, and if Mizuno ever discontinues this line, I will cry a lot of tears.
Sports Bra: 7 Wonders Bra by Title NIne
(This picture is from Title Nine’s website. If you thought it was me, then you need to look again at the name of the blog you’re reading.)
I’ve had several of these bras, and have worn them on about a billion long runs and in all my marathons. I have yet to find a sports bra that doesn’t chafe at all, but this one is by far the least-chafing. It’s supportive and it breathes nicely, and the back hook-and-eye makes taking it off when you’re all sweaty much easier. I also love that it has the hook-and-eye but is still a racerback, since almost all my tanks are racerback, too.
At $56 before shipping, this is kind of a pricey little unit. But it’s well worth it for those of us who can’t get away with wearing the pullover bras from Target that everyone seems to love.
These are the most comfortable shorts for hot-weather runs. The mesh liner keeps the air moving, and they wick sweat like mad. I also like the cut better than a lot of running shorts … they’re less diaper-like than some (like the classic Nike Tempo shorts).
(This is a newer edition than the ones I have, but I’m guessing they’re just as awesome.)
My parents got me these tights for Christmas three years ago, and they’re still going strong as my favorite cold-weather tights. I fell on some ice two winters ago and tore a little hole in the knee, but miraculously, it hasn’t spread.
These tights are as awesome as their advertising claims. The compression feels amazing; the extra support on my knees, especially, really helps on long runs. And they’re warm but not stifling — they still breathe. I love them. A lot.
They’re also really pricey…but hey, it’ll be Christmas before you know it. Might as well start that wish list.
Hydration: FuelBelt Slice and Sprint Handheld Bottles
I know some people can’t stand having things in their hands when they run, but I much prefer these to a belt. I take the Sprint on all but my shortest runs, and the Slice goes on longer and/or hotter runs with me. They’re comfortable to wear and easy to drink out of; what more could you want?
These are the only hairties that keep this crazy red mane in place. They don’t slip out during any workout — running, lifting, plyos, whatever, that ponytail doesn’t budge.
Sunglasses: Maui Jim’s
(They’re on my face in this picture that I’ve used probably five times on this blog. I’m much too lazy to find and upload another photo.)
My parents won these glasses on a cruise and gave them to me. I love them (the glasses and my parents). No bouncing, no fogging, no pinching.
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 210
I’ll admit that I don’t love this watch as much as I loved my 305. I miss being able to program in workouts, goal paces, etc. But this little guy is smaller and more comfortable, and he tracks my pace, mileage, and splits well. And he was way cheaper than the fancier Garmin options.
Treadmill: Sole F80
This is my best friend when it’s dark, lightning-ing, or icy out. I’ve had it a little over a year and haven’t had any troubles. It’s not the fanciest treadmill out there, but it does what I need (speeds and inclines, though no decline, and runs for a long time). We’re BFFs.
I bought it at Dick’s; they have terrific sales, so if you watch, you can get a great deal on a treadmill that’s normally out of your price range. (Sweet fan and ironing board not included.)
One piece of gear I haven’t found and will need soon: Gloves that actually keep my hands warm. Any recommendations?
What’s one piece of fitness gear you can’t live without?
I was there the night that Garmin Forerunner 305 passed away. It was such an ordinary Sunday evening: we’d gone for a bike ride, and I was just getting ready to program Monday’s workout into 305. Suddenly, his screen went blank, and he became entirely unresponsive. Oh, I tried to save him. I plugged him into the wall. I plugged him into the computer. I tried soft resets and hard resets, according to the owner’s manual, time and time again. I cried. I begged. But still no response.
The next morning, I called the Garmin support center, and though they too tried valiantly to save him, it soon became clear that 305 was gone.
We had a good almost-five years together, 305. I remember the day I got you. It was a few days after Christmas. Jordan and I had gone to his parents’ first, and we had just arrived at my parents’ house. I told my dad that I had received some gift cards for Christmas, and that I wanted to spend them on “this really cool watch. It tracks your pace, distance, calories, heart rate — everything!” Of course, I was talking about you. As soon as my mom walked into the room, Dad insisted that we open gifts immediately. And that’s when I met you, elegantly wrapped in glittery paper and ribbon. From that moment on, we were inseparable.
You were there with me through training for my first marathon, and you helped to pace me through the race. You’ve been through bitter cold and sweltering hot runs, from the Olympic peninsula to a Mexican beach to Boston. You were there for me through good runs and bad, shouting at me to speed up or slow down as needed. I will miss you, 305.
(Not my picture. He died without being immortalized in photo).
But even in death, 305 is still giving. As we speak, he is in transit to Garmin headquarters in Kansas, where he will be refurbished. By donating his body this way, 305 provided me with a $70 credit toward his replacement, Garmin Forerunner 210, who should be arriving by the end of the week.
Garmin Forerunner 305 was dearly beloved and will be dearly missed. Farewell, old friend.